“River” by Dr. Calvin James

“River” by Dr. Calvin James 683 1024 Reader Views Kids


Dr. Calvin James   
Calvin James Creates (2024)
ISBN: 978-1737178972
Reviewed by Terri Stepek for Reader Views (06/2024)

Highly acclaimed author Dr. Calvin James brings a new level of allegory to children’s literature with “River,” a tale about a child full of wonder named Renly and his mother Mary, who shares her wisdom with him. This story bursts with thoughts of nature; the animals and the world around Renly, and the concept that we are interconnected.

Renly’s mother relates their lives to various water sources. She is a brook. He is a stream. She gives him insight into the other bodies of running water:

“There are brooks like me, which are very small, and very small life lives in them like insects.  There are streams like you, which have larger and smaller animals living in them.  Then there are creeks, which are even larger and have even larger animals.  Then there are rivers, the largest bodies of running water in the world.  Countless animals beyond size and measure live in them.  Brooks run to streams.  Streams run to creeks and ponds.  Creeks run to rivers and lakes, and rivers run to the sea.”

As Renly grows into a young man, he maintains one constant goal. He wants to be a river. He remembers a lesson his mother taught him about how she saved every drop of rain and every snowflake when she was younger. She probably could have become a stream. But she chose a different path. She instead became a mother and gave some of her current to her son.

The illustrations by Jordan Pizzuti are exquisite, with natural earthy watercolors that enhance the concept of the story while delighting the eyes. The open relationship between mother and son is soul-satisfying as they discuss the wonders of their world and his aspirations as he matures.

There is a wonderful recurring list of the creatures in Renly’s stream, which is both charmingly alliterative and curiously immersive:

The creatures of darkness and night, the mosquitos and minnows, flies and fungi, lizards and leaches, and spiders… The creatures of light and day, the crayfish and catfish, the turtles and tadpoles, the bullfrogs and beavers, and dragonflies…

I loved so many things about “River,” which is the first book of the series Tales of the Mother and the Son. Without a doubt, my favorite is how Renly learns that his actions have consequences for more than just his life. Those around him, from his mother to the creatures in his stream, from the plant life to the very course of the stream, his decisions impact his world in ways he could not anticipate.

To be sure, the complex themes and profound insights highlight the fact that this is not the average children’s story. This is a story to be treasured among children and their families. “River” is a tale that a child can grow up with, gaining new insight as he or she matures and appreciates the deeper meaning within. This is a book that will spark many conversations between reader and listener, child and parent. Calvin James’ “River” is an experience to be shared.

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